[February 8, 2022] Growing up, us kids had minimal permission to watch television and were restricted to one 30-minute show per evening. My brother and I chose the TV show Combat!, starring Vic Morrow and Rick Jason.1 This televised war drama series covered the grim lives of a squad of American soldiers fighting the Germans during World War II. If I had to pick a show that put a mark on me, Combat! was the show.
I was inspired to be like these soldiers; tough, brave, competent, willing to do the dirty work. My hero Buck Sergeant Chip Saunders (Vic Morrow) led his Infantry squad of men through the daily grind of battle, often encountering hardened enemy resistance and undergoing privations from the battlefield.
Along with men in my small town who fought in WWII and the Korean War, I learned a great deal from this show, but more than anything else, it motivated me to join the U.S. Army.
Second Lieutenant Gil Hanley (Rick Jason) was the show’s other co-star, but I always gravitated to Sergeant Saunders for a reason I could never explain. When I was later promoted to “buck” sergeant in the U.S. Army Infantry, it was the happiest day of my life; a dream fulfilled.
Yet, something tugged at me to do more, to get the chance to lead more Soldiers. I knew I could do it, even with my pitiful skills. I had the drive. Now, it was about getting the discipline and knowledge to make it happen.
After seven years as an enlisted soldier, I hung up my stripes to be a Second Lieutenant, but I never left those soldiers who were my brothers in arms. I could be found eating meals with the Infantry Privates, talking to those unconquerable Sergeants to get the ground truth, and learning essential leadership skills that would never leave me. I also learned a great appreciation for them all. That is what made me humble; I could never know as much or be as strong as these men.
Like Sergeant Saunders, I would eventually lead men into combat. I would not be a sergeant but an officer. Like him, I would lead from the front, never failing my soldiers, never faltering, never losing my faith in them. That is what the show Combat! taught me. And I am grateful for it.
You can see Season 1, Episode 1 “Forgotten Front” on YouTube (link here, 49:51 minutes). I recommend sitting back in your favorite chair with a mug of your favorite brew and watching it. You will not be disappointed.
- The show’s name Combat was not depicted with an exclamation mark but with a stylized bayonet, as seen in the featured image from the homepage.
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